SA Divided Over De Klerk Legacy

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As he attempted to shepherd his country through the process of negotiating an end to apartheid, President F.W. De Klerk liked to think of himself as South Africa's Mikhail Gorbachev bringing the equivalent of glasnost to the National Party. Of course, he was unaware that he would soon share Gorbachev's fate at the polls, where newly enfranchised voters rejected him as a symbol of the past. That loss has haunted him. Today the 60-year-old De Klerk resigned the leadership of what is now the main opposition party, believing it could not shed its racist image under his stewarship. "Regardless of how unjustified this perception might be and it is unjustified it remains a problem for our party," he said.

Party leaders were shocked, nonetheless, since De Klerk remained the only NP leader with any significant support in the black population. Nelson Mandela was barely gracious in his praise of the man he had come to increasingly distrust in recent years particularly after De Klerk withdrew his party from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission probing the crimes of the apartheid era. Mandela's salute to his predecessor was barbed: "Whatever mistakes he may have made, and it is possible that he has made very fundamental mistakes as many of us have done, I hope South Africa will not forget the role he has played," Mandela said.

Despite all that has happened, De Klerk still seems to cling to the Gorbachev image. The first order of business in his post-political life is you've guessed it a book deal.